Amid the controversies surrounding the Goafest this year, there was reason to celebrate too. Small agencies emerged big winners at the festival.
Consider this: Names such as Ideas@work, Interface Business Solutions, BC Webwise and XOX Design don't immediately ring a bell as an O&M, Leo Burnett, McCann or JWT would. But these small agencies fought tooth and nail with the big boys at the Creative Abbies this year. And they came up trumps. Ideas@work took home a total of 29 metals across categories such as print, print craft, design, outdoor, film and integrated. Interface Business Solutions was the Grand Prix winner in digital, while BC Webwise and XOX Design had some key wins to their credit in digital and design respectively.
We take a look at the people behind these success stories.
They've been around for easily over 20 to 25 years in advertising. But it doesn't show. 49-year-old Zarvan Patel and 51-year-old Prashant Godbole, co-founders and directors of Mumbai-based creative hotshop ideas@work wear their crowns lightly. "We've been consistently winning at Goafest in the last few years. But it is nothing new for us to find the big agencies hogging the limelight. We prefer to let our work do the talking," says Patel, a copywriter. From discount deals major Groupon to Bandra-based Parsi food joint Jumjoji, jewellery designer Varuna D Jani, real estate developer Rustomjee and domain registrar BigRock, ideas@work picked up one gold, 14 silver and 14 bronze metals for these clients, walking on stage not to deafening applause, but to pin-drop silence. Godbole, an art director, puts it succinctly, "When the attention is on the big boys, you wonder what the small guys are doing out there." The duo, who've been together for sixteen years and worked at agencies such as Rediffusion before starting ideas@work in 2007, have loved to zig, when others have zagged. Having small clients is not a bane, they say, but a boon. "They give you the freedom to execute your ideas. They trust you and believe their brands are in safe hands. What more do you want as a creative person?" asks Patel. Some of the bigger brands that the six-year-old agency has handled have included names such as Gelusil (an antacid), BigRock, and of course, Groupon. There's more coming, says the duo. But they are not revealing anything just yet.
When Sabyasachi Mitter, an IIM-Calcutta pass-out, left a cushy job as manager, marketing, e-business, at Mumbai-based Asian Paints to set up Interface Business Solutions in 2003, little did he know that his digital agency would one day be acknowledged as one of the best in its space. Life at that time was too much of a struggle for the young executive, who'd been seven years with the paints giant and had quit to pursue his dream. India was not exactly at the cusp of a digital marketing revolution when Mitter started Interface, so the questions were natural: Why take the risk now? "I was always a believer that the digital medium if harnessed well could make a world of a difference to marketers," says Mitter, 41, who now has 120 people working for him across three offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Interface counts Procter & Gamble, Bajaj Electricals, Bajaj Finserve, Danone, Nokia, Panasonic, Tata Docomo and Maruti amongst its clients today.
The Grand Prix that the agency bagged for Tata Docomo at Goafest this year is a fine example of Mitter's conviction in the power of digital. "It was a simple idea," he says. "Where we were targeting specific ads to specific people using a facebook feature called custom audience. The people to be targeted were identified through their mobile numbers, a database of which was provided by Tata Docomo. We simply merged real-time customer data with the facebook feature to create customised ads," he adds.
BC Webwise was one of the early movers into the digital advertising & marketing space. The year was 2000 - when the last leg of the dotcom boom was still playing out. But Chaaya Baradhwaaj, a former print journalist, demonstrated that her company was more than a blip on the internet horizon. Her passion for new media and how it could transform the art of communication was what helped her course through the rough and tumble of the initial years. Work from heavyweights such as Hindustan Unilever, Britannia, Monsanto, Hero and Pidilite began coming fast. The 44-year-old, single mother, juggles home and work effectively, keeping a firm eye on her son and allied family members even as she goes about managing her business. "I simply enjoy what I do. I don't think I would have survived this long if I didn't have my heart in my business," she says. At the Goafest, BC Webwise took home a gold, silver and two bronze for HUL's Sunsilk and Pidilite's Fevikwik. The pieces of work for the two brands were different. For Sunsilk, for instance, the award-winning work included the innovative use of video on Youtube to propagate a virtual hair studio. Her agency was also feted (with a gold, that is) for its style diaries - basically a series of videos - once again for brand Sunsilk. BC also designed a complete website for brand Fevikwik from Pidilite and had an online integrated campaign for Sunsilk that gave the agency a silver.
An alumnus of the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Arts (popularly called JJ School of Art) in Mumbai, Sunil Mahadik was clear where he wanted to be: In advertising. Starting out with ad agency Trikaya (now Grey Worldwide) in the 1980s, Mahadik admits that his passion for well-designed communication has always driven him through his 25-year-advertising career. Which is why early into his profession, in 1992, to be precise, he set up his own design house called FX Studios, which later became Flagship Advertising. XOX Design is a division of Flagship Advertising and quite simply it allows him to indulge in his passion for designing great advertising communication - something that the aesthete in him simply loves doing.
At the Goafest this year, XOX walked away with three golds and two silvers. The golds came notably for the agency's design work for a paper merchant called TransAsia that specialises in providing fine paper to designers, typographers and advertising professionals. XoX converted a mundane sampler - which is a catalogue printed by a paper manufacturer for his clients to give them a sense of the paper products he has - into an interesting book called Creative Beings. The second-award winning piece is something that XOX again conceived to stand out of the clutter. It is a planner that has typography at the heart of it.